By Haley Dufton
When it comes to accessibility and accommodations, it’s vital that students know their rights. There is nobody more committed to helping students understand and fight for their rights than Lori Corcoran.
Overseeing the success of both students and staff within the Office of Accessibility Services is compliance officer and director Lori Corcoran.
Having joined the Merrimack community in September 2022, Corcoran’s journey into the world of accessibility as a career, first started when she worked in middle and high school as a science department head, where she oversaw both regular and special ed. It was here that she first began working with students with disabilities.
While in the process of receiving her master’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Corcoran first realized that she was beginning to lose her hearing.
“I started to lose a little bit, but then I lost a lot more,“ Corcoran said. “I decided that I would have better control of my classroom if I was teaching in college.”
Although the topic of accessibility in higher education has made some progress since Corcoran first entered the field, she feels, it’s still an issue today.
“Accessibility and accommodations are still an issue for the country in general. “As a person with a disability, I only started to get rights in 1990 when ADA passed, before that, I didn’t really have rights in the workplace or anywhere.”
In her opinion, Corcoran thinks
“Everybody is behind the eight-ball when it comes to accessibility and accommodations.” “In higher education, it’s nice that they have offices and are able to support students with
disabilities, but I think it’s also important to support staff and faculty with accommodations and take a look at everybody. “Do they have more work to do when it comes to accessibility?
Absolutely, but I think everybody has more work to do, it’s becoming everyone’s business versus just our (people with disabilities) business” adds Corcoran
Because of her hearing loss, Corcoran has previously run into barriers when it comes to job searching, she said.
“Right now, is a better set-up because of Covid, and a lot of first interviews are done via Zoom which makes it easier for me to caption everything myself. Before that, if I was looking for a job, it was hard trying to figure out what supports different jobs had for employees with disabilities.”
After applying and receiving her first higher-ed teaching job in biotechnology at Quinsigamond, community college in Worcester, Corcoran stumbled upon a job posting regarding an opening for a consultant to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the same college.
Immediately upon seeing the job posting, “I thought that was a perfect match for me, with my hearing loss with the information I had already gathered on myself and my experience working in the public schools with students who had disabilities.”
“I ended up getting that job at Quinsigamond, and that was my first job really working and dedicated for people with disabilities.” Said, Corcoran
Upon first starting here at Merrimack Corcoran said
“Even though it was hard to come in with the semester already started and it took a little while to get going at first, everything has been going smoothly so far, the people are great, the students are wonderful and Merrimack is a great place to work.”
Listen to the rest of my interview with Lori here